Daniel Carlock, a Santa Monica aerospace engineer, prayed to God not to let him die after he was abandoned floating in the ocean 12 miles off Long Beach by leaders of a scuba diving excursion. After nearly five hours, surrounded by thick fog, “I had this feeling my spirit was getting ready to vacate my body,” he recalled.
On Friday, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury awarded Carlock $1.68 million in damages in his five-year legal battle against Venice-based Ocean Adventures Dive Co. and Long Beach-based Sundiver Charters.
The jury heard testimony that Carlock, who was 45 at the time of the 2004 incident, had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and developed skin cancer from exposure.
“It has been an ordeal,” he said as he celebrated at a Newport Beach restaurant with his wife, Anne. “But I wanted to seek changes in the scuba industry. Others will benefit.”
The Sundiver, carrying 20 scuba divers, was staging a dive near the oil rig Eureka when Carlock surfaced 400 feet from the vessel after having trouble equalizing the pressure in his ears.
He said he tried to swim back to the boat but got cramps in his legs. He blew on his safety whistle and waved a yellow inflatable diving sausage, but the others on the vessel did not see him and no one noticed he was gone.
Despite his absence, a dive master for Ocean Adventures marked him on the dive roster as present on the boat.
Then, to escape strong currents, the boat moved to a second dive site seven miles away. Once the vessel was there, Carlock was again marked on the roster as having taken a second dive